Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

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As a retail dietitian, I often have the opportunity to chat with customers while they shop. I learn about the decisions they’re making as they carefully curate their cart with a balance of foods. Some are needed, some are wanted, and others the customers just “can’t believe” how much they now cost . With food-focused holidays on the horizon, it’s important to maintain the spirit and tradition of the season when shopping. But we also need to acknowledge the impact of rising food prices. Tips for creating Thanksgiving dinner on a budget can help you do both.

Potluck perfection

When guests ask what they can contribute, try to be more specific than “how about a side dish.”  Doing so can have multiple benefits. Your guests will appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the menu in a meaningful way. Their dishes may help others at the table learn about unique traditions, and add to the holiday joy. Not least of all, you’ll save money by including others in the meal preparation. Long live the potluck!

Sales/loyalty programs

Begin your Thanksgiving shopping early! Sales and shopper loyalty programs will help you save money throughout the season. Sometimes they offer complimentary products too — another bonus. Brand flexibility is also key. While you may have brand favorites for your holiday dishes, you’ll save money by considering less expensive options too. And with Guiding Stars as your shopping partner, choosing alternative but nutritious products is easy.


Home chefs know that the past two years have been characterized by shifts in product availability. This holiday season may be more of the same. Save yourself from worry by choosing flexible recipes that can be easily modified if ingredients aren’t available. Likewise, to save money (and reduce waste), choose recipes with similar ingredients. Lastly, as with all meals, rely on Guiding Stars earning frozen and canned options — they’re often more affordable than fresh.


Cooking often saves money over buying something pre-made or boxed. Our Southern Cornbread, for example, is comprised of low-cost ingredients that you may already have on hand. (I make it several times every Thanksgiving!) Some traditional dishes, like stuffing and cranberry sauce, are far easier to prepare than you may realize. And, when they’re prepared at home, you can control negative attributes like salt, sugar, and saturated fat.

Southern Corn Bread

Southern Cornbread

One Guiding Stars iconOne Guiding Stars indicate good nutritional value.

Traditional southern cornbread is often, like this recipe, unsweetened.

View recipe »

Ingredients and leftovers

Saving money this Thanksgiving doesn’t just mean savvy planning ahead of the holiday, but after too. If your refrigerator is packed with extra ingredients, take a moment to find recipes and freezing methods. Then you can use or store what you have, reduce waste, and stretch your holiday budget even further. Look for our upcoming post highlighting how to create “Thanksgiving leftover lunches” and more. 


A final thought as we enter the holiday season. Maybe this is the year to keep it simple and focus on the essence of the holiday. Slow down, gather with friends and family, and be grateful.  Your menu may have changed from previous years. Your table could look a bit different too. But it’s the people around it that matter most.